When the iPhone launched in 2007, it not only changed the smartphone industry, but also the software industry. Overnight, apps became a sensation. Today on average, people download 8-10 mobile apps and look at their phones at least 45 times a day.
Hence it is no wonder, that in the past few years, Apple has paid $50 billion to developers. That’s right, 50 BILLION dollars. The story isn’t different with Google’s Android Platform. By 2016, Android had paid close to $20 billion to developers. It’s clear that the app store is a booming market, and this is only going to continue.
Companies and startups are building apps that have become useful as marketing and traffic tools. But when it comes to building a business out of apps, our clients always assumed building apps was super expensive. Many even shied away from building an app, as they didn’t understand the terminology that goes into building an app. Building a website was easy, you just dragged and dropped using some free tools, but how exactly does one go about building an app? How do you market it? Do you start earning money as soon as it’s launched?
At The App Development Company, we understand it can be be a bit confusing, so we wrote this guide to demystify building apps.
The different types of apps
Apps can be broadly classified into 3 parts
- Simple Utility Apps: These are basic apps that people use on a daily basis. Like the Calculator app, or say the Contacts app. The functionality here is quite straightforward. You open the app, there are 4-5 screens usually. You save the data inside the app itself.
- API driven Apps: These are apps that are all the rage these days. Any app that works on multiple platforms is supported by an API in the backend. That means, the app’s data comes from a server remotely located elsewhere, and you get to see the data on your phone. Apps like Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp are classic examples of these types of apps.
- Games: As the name suggests, Games are apps as well. While building a game is a costly proposition, games are highly downloaded. The average gamer downloads 6-8 games a month, and if you manage to catch their attention with your storyline and graphics, you can earn huge returns for your app. Games like Angry Birds, Need for Speed Mobile are some example of highest grossing game apps.
The above 3 categories cover almost 99% of the apps in today’s market. If you are looking to build an app, you first start by determining in which of the above 3 categories, your app falls into.
How we estimate cost
Platform: The first and foremost thing is to decide, which platform you are going to build the app for. Are you going to make this only iOS or you have plans to make it for Android as well? On the iOS – you have higher chances of selling your app (meaning people will pay for your app), and on Android, you have higher chances of high download numbers.
Keeping this in mind, here’s what it would cost:
Simple Utility Apps – €1,000-€5,000 per platform – If you are looking to build quite simple apps, and have chosen your platform, these apps can cost you anywhere from €1,000-€5,000 per platform. This usually includes all designs, code and launching on the app store. This can be usually built within 2-3 weeks, and refined thereafter.
API Driven Apps – €5,000-€50,000 per platform – API driven apps are slightly complicated. A team of 2-3 developers are usually needed for building such an application. You have all the data in the backend, written by the web developer who passes on the content to the mobile developer. The mobile developer takes the data and then displays it properly on different screens. Apart from the app store costs, you will have to pay for server costs as well. Building the app can take anywhere from 2-6 months. A strategy that we usually suggest our clients is to release the app for one platform, and then after validation, build for other platforms.
Games – €10,000-€300,000 – Building games can be tough, and usually needs around 4-5 developers. There will be designers, level developers and an overall game developer working on your project. Typically the costs are high because of the technologies used but games are the most engaging types of apps. If you get it right, your game can get people hooked to your app! Remember Flappy Bird? The game went on to become an overnight sensation, so much that the developer of the app had to eventually shut it down.
Things that might affect cost
Devices: If you have used an app on both a phone and a tablet, chances are you’ll notice a lot of differences. That’s because apps have to be designed according to the screen size. So supporting tablets is usually more work. It costs anywhere from €1,000-€3,000 to support extra devices like the iPad or Samsung Tablets.
Payment Modules: It’s important for you to earn money from your app, but how do you do it? Let’s see some of the ways to start making money from an app:
- Paid App – Nothing: You sell the app for an upfront amount. €1.99, €0.99 and so on. This wouldn’t cost extra, as this is a setting usually in the app store backend that you have, where you can set the price.
- Freemium App – €2,000-€4,000: You allow people to download the app for free, but then via in-app purchases, you sell premium content. This is a proven revenue generator model lots of apps including games like FarmVille and Temple Run. Another example is Overcast, the highly popular podcast app for iOS, which allows you to download the app for free but displays ads in the free version. If you upgrade via an in-app purchase for €9.99 – it removes the advertisements inside the app. Building apps with in-app purchases will cost you extra based on the subscription model you have in mind.
- Payment Gateways – €4,000-€8,000: Maybe you’re looking to build an app like Amazon’s where the users use a credit card to buy products. If you are looking to build this kind of app, you have to use a payment gateway processor like Stripe, Paypal or Braintree. User’s security is the most important factor here, and which is why integrating this feature also costs a bit extra.
Now that you have a fair idea of the app development terminologies, you might be wondering, how exactly you go about building an app? What are the next steps to take?
Building an app – The process
- Research and Prototype: You have a “killer” app idea, but now what? The first step of app development is to first see if similar apps already exist. Don’t be discouraged if the app idea you have has been already built by someone and that app has a huge market share. It just shows that there is a market for it. Go through the app and see what it does perfectly… and what it doesn’t.One good strategy would be to go through the app’s reviews. Users often leave their feedback as well as frustration in the reviews section. Go through them, and see if there is a call from many users for a certain feature. Include that in your app.Now, using some mockup tools like PoP, Pencil, Balsamiq or NinjaMock, drag and drop to envision how your app will look. What will happen when you go to the first screen? What will happen when you tap a button? Note down every thought process during this stage in a document.At the end of this stage, you should have some rough mockups detailing what your app should look like. Don’t aim to make anything related to design or try to perfect your app, rough mockups will do.
- Design: Now that you have done a rough sketch of your app, you have to decide on a MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Sure, you want to build the next big Instagram, but you can’t start with all the features on day one. So it’s advisable to start with only some core features, and then add extra features later on.At this stage, work with a designer who has a good grasp and understanding of mobile apps. At The App Development Company our designers can help you build a slick design for your app. Your designer will work on the assets and design every screen. They will add colors, any complex animations and put it all together in a workable prototype. This is the stage where your app looks more like the real thing, and once you’re happy with the design you proceed to the next stage.
- Development: The developers are handed over the assets from the designers. The developers also need a detailed document of the functionality you intend to build. The more thorough and detailed you are in describing the features, the more time you save.Explain why you are building the app and how you want the feature to function. If you have seen a feature elsewhere in some app, use the example to drive your point. Developers love it when they have clarity. This also ensures that they don’t have to go back and code again on a feature they already built. In short, ensure you have given enough clarity to get it right the first time. The developers will now code your app, using the designs and start preparing test builds for you to test.
- Testing: Often overlooked by many people, testing is one of the important things in the mobile app development cycle. While you can certainly do the testing on your own, it is always recommended to hire a QA (Quality Analyst). The role of the QA would be to go through each build of the app to make sure there are no bugs.The QA also takes time to test the app on different devices. Apart from the QA testing, and you testing, we recommend roping in your beta users or some close friends to test the app. This is purely because, as someone who has been involved with the app from the start, you might miss a couple of things. Sometimes fresh perspective from a third party is needed to validate your assumption or tell you something new. At the end of this stage, you should have a fully functional app. It is now time to launch.
- Launch: Launching your app, means releasing the app in app stores. You have to create a developer account with Apple or Google depending on your app’s platform. Apple’s developer account costs 99$/year and Google’s developer account is a one time fee of 25$. Once you have created the account, your developers have to be added as team members inside the dashboard and they will be invited to your team.While you focus on filling up the app’s description, the developers will upload their build. The app’s description is the first impression the users will have of your app, so ensure that you use catchy words, along with perfect screenshots, that get your users to tap the download button. Choosing the right category, along with the right search keywords can make your app rank higher above other apps.Once you are finished you then submit your newly built app for review and approval by Google or Apple. It’s time now for you to take a deep breath and launch your app into wild.
Congratulations! you have launched your app onto the marketplace and your users can now install and start using your app.
Post Launch Costs
Once your app has been built and launched on the app store, it is not the end of the road. You will quickly start getting users and you have to adapt to different trends and situations. Did you know there are 1000+ apps updated daily and new apps being added to the app store on a daily basis? As such, you have to be on top of your game and ensure that people keep coming back using your app.
Marketing and Promotion – €1,000-€3,000: Once your app has been launched you would want people to find you not only on the app store but also on the web. We always recommend a single page landing site which highlights the features of your app and redirects your users to their respective app stores. Apart from these, you may also want to do SEO, marketing lists collection and reaching out to bloggers with promotion codes to promote your app.
Scaling your servers – Depends on volume: If your app has an API backend you may have launched with a server enough to handle 10,000 users. But now users are flooding in and you don’t want to give them a bad experience. At times like these, our cloud experts walk you through a reliable scaling process, that ensures your users use your app smoothly and you don’t pay a bombshell amount to handle all the load.
Bug Fixes and Ongoing Maintenance – €1,000 – €2,500 – Depending on work: Just like humans, no Software is perfect. Somehow bugs always creep in. It’s always best to have a team that developed the app help you support the app as well. As a team, they can identify issues soon and get back to you with patches, which you can then release to the users. Not only this, software needs maintenance, like backups, downtimes and so on. Having a team assist you with maintenance really helps users feel that the app is active and gets you good feedback.
Feature based Updates – €1,000 – €3,000 – Depending on work: From time to time, Apple and Android release new features and highlight apps that make best use of these features. For example, when Apple released Fingerprint protection, apps that used fingerprint protection in their apps were highlighted by Apple on the app store, which led to huge downloads for these apps. It’s important to always look for new features from the platform, be responsive and integrate these changes and delight your users. At The App Development Company we always keep a look out for feature changes and alert our clients whenever there is an opportunity.
Liked the guide? Do you have a killer app idea that you want to launch? At The App Development Company we work closely with startups to Fortune500 companies, helping them realise their app development strategies. We are a team of mobile experts who have a combined 30+ years of experience in building mobile apps. Contact us today for a free consultation.